After nearly every other college football team has started its season, Kentucky State University gets its 2014 campaign underway Thursday.
The Thorobreds open their season against Kentucky Wesleyan at Alumni Stadium with kickoff at 7 p.m. Thursday’s game is Faculty/Staff Appreciation Day and KSU Alumni Appreciation Day.
“I always played on Thursdays,” KSU coach Josh Dean said. “We’re trying to create a lot of buzz, a lot of build-up. On Saturdays you have Little League, college football, you have UK and U of L.
“This gives our guys a chance to play under the lights.”
After a weekend of watching college football, the Thorobreds are ready to play.
“We’re very excited to go,” Dean said. “We feel like we’ve improved, and we’re excited to get out there and see the type of team we really are.”
This will be the third year the Thorobreds have played KWC for their season opener. The teams split the last two years, with the Panthers winning 13-6 in 2012 and KSU rolling to a 42-6 victory last year.
That familiarity doesn’t mean the Thorobreds know exactly what to expect Thursday.
“They have a new offensive coordinator, and they have a new defensive coordinator,” Dean said of Kentucky Wesleyan. “That makes it kind of hard to anticipate what they’re doing. We know the kind of athletes they have because we recruit the same area.
“In instances like these you have to work on what you do.”
What the Thorobreds do well is run the ball. They return two of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s best backs in Jacquise Lockett and Justin Williams.
“We’re still a running team,” Dean said. “It’s not a secret who we go to — Justin Williams and Jacquise Lockett. As long as we have them we feel like we have a chance.
“The good thing is we’ve worked a lot on our passing game, and Adam Robinson has grown, matured. We definitely feel our wide receivers have had a lot of growth, and we’re excited to see how some of these guys are going to do.”
Lockett rushed for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago while Williams was second on the team among running backs with 432 yards and three TDs.
Robinson completed 54.5 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 1,346 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games. Lockett, Williams and Robinson are all seniors.
Last year was Dean’s first season as head coach. He served as interim head coach before being named permanent head coach late last season.
“We always expect to have a really good season,” Dean said. “Last year we had a couple of games we could have won. We could have easily been 7-3 instead of 5-5.
“Last year was a learning experience for myself as well as the team. We have higher expectations this year.”
The Thorobreds play two more non-conference games — at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 13 and at home against Virginia State Sept. 20 — before opening SIAC play Sept. 27 at Stillman College in Tuskegee, Ala.
“We’re in pretty good condition, and everyone is healthy,” Dean said. “We have no injuries going into the first game, and that’s a great thing.
“Hopefully we’ll do what we know we’re capable of doing.”